Unlike many entrepreneurs, my journey actually started with a solid financial upbringing from my parents. Having a strong desire to make my own way in the world without relying on others and seeing the success of my parents, I quickly discovered that everything in life was very expensive when you were paying your own way through school and only working minimum-wage summer jobs. It didn't take long before I discovered deal hunting, sales, price matching, and credit card rewards as a way to stretch my money so I could enjoy the things I wanted to in life at a reasonable price. After years of perfecting the art of the deal, I became quite an expert on the subject. Most of the best information I found was buried deep inside forum threads that were thousands of posts long that most busy people would never have the chance to discover. That's when I went looking to see if anyone was publishing useful content on saving money in Canada, and nobody was. That's when I decided to start planning the launch of How To Save Money, which has become one of the top personal finance resources for Canadians. The site first launched in August 2010 after working on the idea for a couple of years. My partner Maria and I, then followed that up in 2017 with the launch of creditcardGenius, the most advanced credit card comparison web application in the world. We do things like rank and analyze cash back credit cards using our Genius Rating algorithm. Since then it has grown in leaps and bounds and will soon be one of the top 1,000 websites in Canada. It's really a story of persistence. Even when I was earning nothing, or less than $1 per hour for years at a time while working evenings and weekends, I never gave up knowing that I was making a difference in people's lives and that there was real long term growth potential. Rome wasn't built in a day and I just kept learning, growing, hustling, and putting one foot in front of the other until the magic happened. With pigheaded persistence, nearly anyone can accomplish almost anything.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdle was and still is, needing to know how to do so many different things to simply run HowToSaveMoney and CreditcardGenius, let along grow them. For years I was a one-man show, which meant I needed to do everything including: set up hosting, design and code the site, design my own logo and branding, research and write the articles, develop partnerships with big businesses to make money, market both my own content and other people's products without any marketing budget, handle SEO and data analysis of results, social media and community management, and so much more.
Looking back, I really have no idea how I did it all while working a full-time job.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
I'm currently reading "Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity." Great books to read for Entrepreneurs particularly in the technology space are "The Lean Startup", "The Airbnb Story", "The Four", "The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon", "The Ultimate Sales Machine", and "Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You've Got".
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
They're generally pretty understanding but it does suck a whole lot of your life energy which means I, unfortunately, don't have as much time to spend with them as I would like. I try to make time as much as I can to shut off and spend time with my kids, but it's a daily struggle because Entrepreneurship is a 24/7 job.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Persistence. The unwillingness to fail.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish I had known that things don't have to be perfect to take action. You learn so much more by doing and trying things out in a smaller fashion instead of trying to go for that "big launch". I also wish that I started reading business-focused books a lot sooner. There is a massive wealth of information out there and it only costs $20 or less per book or is free at your local library. You don't even need a degree to do big things, just know how to read and the dedication to figure things out.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Don't wait to get started. The best time to start is now. Also, don't be afraid of spending a little bit of money to give yourself an initial boost but be very afraid of spending a lot of money. It's amazing to me that bloggers won't spend less than $100 on a high-quality theme for their blog when starting out that would instantly put them a cut above everyone else out there. However, you shouldn't spend $10,000 on "get rich quick" and "grow your blog quick" courses or Facebook ads - maybe ever.